After thousands of years of shaping human society and behaviour, alcohol and its consumption are normalized in the UK and the world over.
It’s the most widespread recreational substance in the world, but that doesn’t make it any less addictive or destructive than narcotics and other addictive substances – in fact, it’s considered one of the most addictive substances in the world and plays a significant role in fatal accidents and criminal activity worldwide.
In the UK alone over 500,000 people are classed as alcohol dependent, and over 82% of them are not seeking treatment when they should.
Alcoholism – Alcohol Addiction and Dependence
Alcohol addiction also goes by the term alcoholism. The most common interpretation of alcoholism would be the compulsive consumption of alcohol, to the detriment of the drinker, who is unable to stop drinking despite that detriment.
Alcoholic beverages contain ethanol, a highly addictive substance; other types of alcohol are toxic to us, but when ethanol is consumed regularly and over long periods of time, a strong addiction and alcohol dependence occurs.
Addiction and dependence are two different things, but more often than not coexist together to create the chaotic existence alcoholics find themselves in. Addiction affects the brain, altering the brain’s reward system and compelling us to continuously pursue the chemical reward we receive from addictive substances regardless of the negative consequences of our behaviour.
Dependence, on the other hand, is a physical phenomenon in which your body and brain become accustomed to a certain level of that substance, and now actually requires you to maintain that level of substance use to function normally.
Suddenly, a ‘functioning alcoholic’ takes on a whole new meaning.
When someone with alcohol dependence stops drinking, their bodies react abnormally, creating unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms we categorize as withdrawal symptoms.
It’s only because of the normalisation and the insidious nature of alcohol in our society that makes this a surprise to many. Alcohol has the same dangerous psychologically and physically damaging effects as even some of the most dangerous substances, it’s only how we perceive them that’s different. Because of this, millions of people across the world have suffered from the damaging effects of alcohol, more so than any other substance.
Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
There are a broad array of physical and behavioural signs that point towards alcoholism, but it’s just as important to note that everyone is different, and thus can behave or react differently. An alcoholic can often go to great lengths to hide their addiction from themselves and others, so the absence of evidence doesn’t equate to the absence of addiction. Similarly, these behavioural changes can be caused by things other than addiction.
Physical symptoms of alcohol addiction can include:
- Alcohol cravings
- Lapses in memory, often from blackouts due to drinking
- Illnesses, such as cirrhosis of the liver and alcoholic ketoacidosis, which presents in dehydration-type symptoms.
Behavioural symptoms of alcohol addiction can include (but are not limited to):
- a lack of interest in previously normal activities
- appearing intoxicated more regularly
- needing to drink more to achieve the same effects
- appearing tired, unwell or irritable
- an inability to say no to alcohol
- anxiety, depression or other mental health problems
- becoming secretive or dishonest
- Irresponsible, careless and even reckless behaviour despite consequences for themselves and others
- Mood swings and irritability
- Aggressive behaviour when both sober and intoxicated
These effects have serious consequences for relationships and often result in the collapse of families, friendships, and working relationships.
Alcohol becomes the mental anchor for those suffering from alcoholism, and while they may feel like they need it to feel normal, the consequences of this dependence can be catastrophic for everything else in their lives.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction in the UK, we are here to help. Getting in touch with us is the first step on a journey of recovery, and our addiction specialists and counsellors are on hand to handle the situation with the care, support and compassion it deserves. For questions, advice, and enrollment in our London Rehab, you can reach out to us here.